Tarantino Silences My Doubts With “Inglourious Basterds”
I saw “Inglorious Basterds” almost two weeks ago now so this is a very overdue review. Normally, I type these out pretty quickly after I see a movie but the fact that a) I’ve been extremely lazy and b) I didn’t see the movie as soon as I would have liked, thus an already late review have both caused my delay.
As several of you probably know since this movie has already made close to $100 million, “Inglourious Basterds” is about a group of American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raines, that are dropped into Nazi-occupied France. These soldiers are tasked with one mission only, which is to hunt down and kill as many Nazis as possible. Of course, the stroke of genius here is that Raines only enlists Jewish soldiers in his death squad.
This simple plot is what is being sold on all the posters and in all the trailers. There is so much more to this movie than that simple premise. Sure, there is plenty of Nazi killing done by Raines’ crew, but that alone wouldn’t make for an entertaining movie would it? Since I originally assumed that the movie was just about bloodlust and revenge killings, I wasn’t looking forward to this movie as much as others. Hadn’t Quentin Tarantino already made his four hour long revenge flick?
If you haven’t seen this and are hesitant because, like I was, you thought you were over Tarantino and his self-indulgent writing and directing, you are completely wrong. “Inglourious Basterds” is easily Tarantino’s best movie since “Pulp Fiction”. It’s focused and, even with all the blood and mayhem, has an actual story to tell. Instead of the normal Tarantino stunt casting, this movie seems like the actors were cast, not because Tarantino likes them, but because they actually fit their roles.
The main reason that there isn’t blood overload for the 153 minute runtime is due to the plotline that follows Shosanna (Melanie Laurent). We meet Shosanna in the first scene of the movie, as her and her family are hiding in the French countryside from Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who is known as “The Jew Hunter”. This opening scene, titled in perfect Tarantino-fashion “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…”, is one of the most intense and nerve-wracking things I’ve sat through in quite some time.
That particular scene is intense due to two reasons. The first is that Tarantino knows quite well that just the sight of Nazi soldiers in uniform creates immediate tension and he uses it brilliantly. Second? Christoph Waltz is genius as Landa. He isn’t psychopathic or crazed. He simply carries out his job throughout the movie as if he were a chef enjoying a delicious pastry he just baked. It’s the kind of villain that you love to hate and a performance that is guaranteed to be remembered when Best Supporting Actor nominations are due.
If there is one beef that I have with “Inglourious Basterds”, it’s that we didn’t get to learn more about some of the characters. There is a great introduction for Til Schweiger’s Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, but we don’t learn much about him after it. Also, much was made about Eli Roth’s Sgt. Donny Donowitz and his baseball bat, but again, we just don’t see him enough. I understand the movie was long and you can only do so much but it left me wanting more from these characters. Maybe Tarantino should have made “Inglourious Basterds” into two movies instead of “Kill Bill”?
Once the Basterds get to Paris, their story coincidentally collides with Shosanna’s. Once you throw in Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and some, ahem, historical inaccuracies, you’ve got a final act that is as slick as anything Tarantino has ever created. Not only is it fast-paced and clever, it’s also incredibly sad and tragic. This came as a complete shock to me and it makes this movie a definite stroke of genius.
“Inglourious Basterds” may be the best movie I’ve seen to date in 2009. The odd thing about that is that I went in expecting to not like the movie, since I didn’t like “Kill Bill” that much and I despised “Grindhouse”. Tarantino has restored my faith in his creativity with this movie.